Thursday, March 13, 2008

We all eventually become our mothers

Chicago's temperatures soared into the high 50's today. On the street, everywhere, people were walking around in t-shirts and jeans, smiling and happy. The sun was out. The dawn of spring was nigh. It was the first day of the year that people felt guilty for wasting away hours at their jobs and chores instead of going outside to breathe the seemingly tropical air and feel the sunlight on their arms.

Tonight I pulled into a gas station and some guy was standing around the corner from the front door, skulking in the shadows and looking around expectantly for someone. He kept staring at me. I was going to call my friend Ed, who I always call just so that I'm on the phone if something happens so he can, I don't know, freak out or something. I knew he was on another call (his phone was ringing when I left), so I just got out of the car. The skulker had been peering at the only other person at the pumps, and that person was gone now.

He approached me, this skinny black guy dressed too warmly for a night like this. He started with his pitch. I said, "No," a little too loudly. He backed up. He gave me some story that his car was out of gas. I didn't see any car. I told him I was out of money ("Hey, man, I'm a college student, I'm on my last dollar too. Look at my car," trying to make a joke.) I got inside and told the fella behind the bullet proof glass about the skulker. He walked back out with me, two wary souls out for a fight on the first nice evening of the year.

The skulker was chased off, and the clerk stayed outside with me while I pumped a whopping $10 into my poor car's tank. The clerk was in his 50's and shorter than me by four inches, easily, but his face showed creases that spoke of hard days past. As we watched the skulker flag down people across the street, I thought about my chances of taking on the clerk in a brawl, and the skulker's chances of taking us both. Whether through bizarre curiosity or basic self-defense ("always be aware of your surroundings") I don't know, but this is a question I often ask myself whenever I lay eyes on people. It's just one of those weird tics that makes this monkey different from all the other monkeys crawling around on the planet. The skulker was heading back across to our side of the street, heading for the fast food place next door. (He would fight from his shoulders, lightening fast punches delivered by taut muscles that hugged young bones. His center of gravity would be higher than the clerk's, but he would still be hard to knock down.)

I thanked the clerk (he'd have taken me once he knocked me down; he looked like he fought with his torso, low to the ground and strong like oak, squeezing the life out of his opponent) and I drove off into the shimmering night. I cringed as I pulled up to the only traffic light between me and home, realizing I saw in that guy's eyes was simply worry that some stuck up white lady was going to call the cops when he wasn't doing anything. Maybe the skulker's car was broken down two blocks away and he was really desperate for some cash. We're in a recession, after all. And here I was, being a stereotypical suburban white woman acting a fool because a black man was talking to me. At night. At a deserted gas station.

Maybe some other driver, kinder and richer than I, got him his gas and the skulker made it home safe. Maybe he's still skulking around that fast food joint. Maybe he's given up on this stuck up, predominantly white town and hoofed it home.

If so, he's lucky. It's a nice night for a walk.

The times they are a-changin'

As in daylight savings time. What, you wanted something deep? Try the Pacific.

I got new hours at my new gig, but since they started the same week as daylight savings, it's still a lot like getting up at 5. The new job is very strange, all of the freedoms and restrictions have been swapped. I can now wear whatever I want (as opposed to those ratty old uniforms), get up whenever I want to go get some water, state my opinion without being treated like a moron, and actually enjoy talking to my co-workers.

I can't surf the net, do most of my homework (because of the net restriction), have free reign over the Business Center, or really do my job. I used to be able to quote a price for a job, create and print all kinds of useful cards (business cards, name tags, post cards, place cards for tables), and be a back-up hand for the hotel's office staff. Everything is run on credit cards now, so the prices are already set and I can't do anything about it. My printer is just a little black and white printer that can't make all the fancy cards and can only make half-decent non-fancy cards at a very slow rate. Three times today I let the hotel staff down because of the credit card situation or because of equipment problems. I am redundant. But at least I'm employed.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

About a year ago, I was introduced to via It cheaply and efficiently backs up your files. It does this automatically in the background, so you don't have to spend time doing it manually. I got a free trial through, and when I heard back from other "agents" I decided to pay up for a whole year - about $50.

Everything was going great. I knew I had to go through and specially set it to backup my video files. This isn't written in bold red print, but I found it in the fine print and set it up to backup videos. No biggie.

Then I got a virus. It wiped my whole hard drive. Pictures, music, video, word documents, notes for class - all of it, gone.

I was more irritated than worried because I have the Carbonite backup and I knew all my files were fine.

I re-installed my hard drive and went to log into It didn't accept my password. I clicked "forgot password," and was told to fill out a form to send to their customer service department with basic information. They asked for the last four digits of th credit card that I used to buy my subscription. I couldn't remember which card I put it on, and told them so. I submitted the form and got an email auto-response. Apparently it was going to take 72 hours to get back to me.

72 hours. To recover a password.

So I called their support line. Nobody was there, they only support people between 9 am and 5 pm, Eastern Standard Time. Because everybody knows that's the only time computers crash, right?

So I called back today. The recorded voice said I could get something like preferred customer service for just $20. It said I was 9th in line for regular service. I kept my $20 and waited. Every minute, the recorded voice interrupted the horrible elevator music to tell me I could also contact customer service via email. It gave me the email. After 45 minutes, I got really pissed.

I wrote:


I have been on hold with your company for 46 minutes. You have my $50 and all of my backup files. I would like to get back either my $50 or my files. I refuse to pay an extra $20 just so you will pick up the phone. You keep asking me to hold. I guess you think I am going to hang up.

You are wrong.


Half an hour later, it was a similar email. When I hit the 90 minute mark, another. I wrote to their CEO (his email is listed on the site) as well. Still nothing.

At one hour and 45 minutes, someone finally got on the phone. His name is Chris. He had an email sent out within minutes.

When I went to check for that email, I saw that I got a reply from someone named Roseanne. This was in response to the email I'd sent to the CEO. She sent a link to reset my password and apologized for my hassle. I clicked the link while I was on hold (very briefly) with Chris. It didn't work. I'm guessing that's because it was being re-reset by Chris. I clicked on the link from Chris's email and it worked perfectly.

I won't be using this service again. I'm going to get my files back, put them on removable storage, and get that McAfee program that backs up my stuff.

Yes, it was my fault for not writing down the password and keeping it in a safe place. However, the customer service at this company is so ridiculously difficult to access that it would be stupid to keep trusting them with my files. It shouldn't take five angry emails and two full hours of my daytime minutes to get access to a program that I've already paid $50 for.